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Penguins line up for annual medical exams at John Ball Zoo

The zoo is home to the 2nd longest living penguin of his kind in captivity
Posted at 1:32 PM, Feb 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-26 13:34:02-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The penguins at John Ball Zoo had their annual medical checkup Wednesday morning.

There are currently 26 Magellanic penguins living in the zoo's aquarium. Part of making sure they all stay healthy is performing the annual exams.

"Of course they don't tell us if there's something wrong. we have to keep a close eye on if their appetite changes or if maybe there's a slight limp. They want to hide anything that might be wrong because that's just a natural instinct for most animals, they don't want predators to see that they're weaker than another individual and be easier to catch," said Nick Milbratz of John Ball Zoo.

The penguin habitat was drained Wednesday morning to make room for staff to put together a short assembly line. The penguins then move from one station to the next, each staff member checking for something different.

The penguins are all gathered on one side of their habitat, and moved one by one through the line of zoo staff members. A doctor looks at each of them and compares their current condition to information in their medical records. The zoo keeps extensive records on each penguin, noting their daily appearance and habits.

Some of the penguins will need to have their beak slightly trimmed. All of them are scanned by a metal detecting wand to make sure that nobody ate any sort of metal pieces that could have somehow got into their habitat.

John Ball Zoo is home to the second oldest living Magellanic penguin on record. Herbie is 35 years old and still kicking. Milbratz says the oldest living Magellanic is 36 years old. He credits the zoo's attention to medical health as one of the reasons their penguins are living so long.

The Magellanic penguin only has a lifespan of about 8 to 10 years in the wild.

John Ball Zoo opens back up to the public in April.